The End of Batman

Posted: July 21, 2012 in Comics, Movies

The End

My hands are shaking….let me just get that out of the way first.  A few hours after seeing it for the first time and I’m still overwhelmed and emotional.  I’m still swallowing the lump in my throat at the experience I just came out of.  I was thinking for a moment that I should just let it sit for a few days and get my thoughts together before I write a review on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

I can’t do that.

Before I really get into the meat of what this movie meant to me, let me get a few things out of the way so that way I won’t have to revisit them or, if you are only here for a recommendation, to get that going too.

Yes, I liked this movie.  Yes, I highly recommend seeing it in the theaters.  Yes, the movie has flaws and isn’t perfect.  Yes, it doesn’t diminish this film in anyway.  No, I’m not going to give out spoilers if you decide to keep reading.

Ok, we good?  Wonderful.  Now, let’s talk about this movie…

The one thing I think that stuck with me throughout the entire film was something I never really gave much thought to.  I never really realized how invested I am to the fictional character of Batman.  When it came down to the line and I thought that, maybe my inclinations where true…that this was the END of Batman…when that reality seemed to be more than just a rumor…That’s when I started shaking.

You see, I think it rings true with a lot of people and they don’t even see it.  We more than just identify with Batman.  We are more than just fans and comic nerds.  Batman is more than just a symbol and a reflection of human ingenuity and all that diatribe.

When it comes down to it….when faced with the possible end of someone we have grown attached to…we begin to fear that loss.  We begin to fear what it means to loose someone we take for granted.

I’m not saying it happens, just so you know….but being that this is the last Batman film in Nolan’s universe, one has to appreciate the fact that it’s something that COULD happen.  The gravity of it weighs heavily over this entire film and leaves us with an oppressive feeling all the way through.

Bane (Tom Hardy) vs. Batman (Christan Bale)

Rises takes place eight years after The Dark Knight ended with the death of Harvey Dent and Jokers incarceration at Arkham.  In that time, The Batman hasn’t been seen actively patrolling Gotham’s streets as he once did, his decision to take the blame for all the deaths at Dents hand still haunting him….and James Gordon.  In that time, we learn that Wayne has retired Batman and has become a crippled recluse, hiding in his reconstructed mansion with Alfred, but also find that Gordon (once more played brilliantly by our favorite Gary Oldman) and the GCPD have managed to keep Gotham clean and free of organized crime, but the price of that peace eats away at Gordon, tearing at his life, and even pushing his family away as they have long left him alone in the city he has protected with everything he has.  It’s at this point we are introduced to Bane…..a fearless mercenary who has grand designs for Gotham, it’s people, and The Batman.

You see, it’s not about what we are seeing on screen.  It’s not about how “evil” Bane is or how intricate his plans are.  What makes Bane a truly menacing villain is that he has a belief.  He has faith.  Where with the Joker, we saw how calculated madness could bring a city to it’s knees, with Bane, we see a clear mind with the same brilliance who’s plan is far reaching…and who manages to make it actually work without error.  In fact, where the Jokers plans could be foiled several different ways, leaving himself open for a random factor to thwart him (such as the people in the ferries not pushing their buttons, ending his scheme then and there), Bane leaves nothing to chance, crushing the spirit of Gotham’s people, giving it hope, and then showing them just how vile and ruthless hope really is.

“When Gotham is…ashes…you have my permission to die.”

Tom Hardy’s Bane was maybe the biggest chance Nolan took when it came to picking who was going to be the antagonist for Batman in a third entry, and god….it paid off in every way.  It wasn’t so much that you could defeat the man, of that he had that edge physically….but it was that he felt he was righteous, and the power that comes from that sort of belief.  A perfect example of this was when he fought Batman in the sewers and simply said “Victory has defeated you.”

There IS more I would like to share about Bane in general, but I want to keep things spoiler free, so for now, I will say that his persona fits the original concept of him when he came out in the comics years ago….a man driven by a single purpose, and who has the means to carry out that agenda with accuracy and tenacity.  I have to admit, as I watched the film, there where times when it felt that he was more frighting than the Joker….and believe me, that’s saying a lot.

One of the most pleasant surprises of this film was Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman

I can’t continue to talk about the cast without mentioning Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Gotham’s favorite cat burglar, Selina Kyle.  Out of the entire casting choices Nolan made, this was the one I was worried about the most.  She looked the part, sure, but I wasn’t sure that she was going to be able to play the Selina Kyle I knew.  I was, thankfully, proved wrong, as Anne managed to capture everything that was memorable about Catwoman…from her sassy demeanor, seductive confidence, ability to switch her emotions at a glance, and showing that she could hold her own in a fight, letting no one take advantage of her.  She didn’t honestly get a lot of screen time (or as much as I was hoping for) to really get in some character development (for example, showing her partnered with Holly Robinson was a great touch, but they never really SAY that’s who it is, leaving nerds like me to point at the screen and whimper, but realizing no one else knew who it was…), but since this was an almost three hour long film, I’m glad they got out what they could and made her interesting, giving her a strong arch, and a major decision towards the end.

Blake: I don’t need to hide who I am!
Batman: The mask isn’t to hide who you are, it’s to protect those you love.

Another strong casting choice was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer John Blake, our idealist and the heart of the film.  His arch is, arguably, one of the most interesting aspects of Rises and we see a gradual shift in his priorities as he watches what organized law can do when pushed against the wall.  In a movie that tries to use hope against everyone, Blake is our one beacon of it…unable to be tarnished.  Unwilling to let it go.  He is out everyman and our window into the madness of what happens when civilized people begin to eat each other (a chilling reminder of what the Joker had already told us before hand).  I loved this character and I wanted to see more of him…and when they make the big reveal at the end, and who he actually IS…..it makes me happy that he’s the one….and that this is the last Nolan Batman film.  It’s not unusual for a Batman film to have a cast that overshadows the man himself, but it’s never felt more prevalent now then it does with Blake.  Kudos to Nolan for putting him in it and for letting Joseph play him perfectly.

For shame, Alfred. You made me cry…

Now, before I move on…I have to make some mentions to one more cast member who had very little screen time…but impacted the movie for me in the most personal way.  Michael Caine as Alfred delivers once more, but not in the way one would expect.  He only shows up, briefly, for the first act…and then again at the end of the third…but it’s what he says…and his reactions to Bruce’s ego and vanity that make the entire movie difficult to watch.  We have, over the course of three films, come to love this old butler who has been Wayne’s surrogate father for most of his life, but to see him break down….to show Bruce that he is more than just his employee…that no matter what pain he puts Bruce though that he loves him….I think it’s this that makes the movie feel as oppressive as it does.  In the end, we don’t want to see Alfred hurt….we don’t want to see him have to bury another family member.  This relationship between both men is strained and about to break, but not because of anger or hate….and it’s Alfred who made me shed tears in the finally…but of course he did.  Michael Caine is one of the finest actors in the world…he has maybe 10 minutes in this movie….and they impacted me the most.  When you can do that in a movie this large…then dammit…you have more than talent.  You’re a natural.

The film itself has a heavy “fight the power” feel to it, but in the end, it’s message, at least to me, isn’t as “left wing” as others make it out to be.  Nolan was smart enough to show both sides of the privilege coin….after all, he spent the last two movies showing us how bad Gotham’s poverty can be…and how well off the rich are in the city.  When revolution comes, and Bane leads the people to revolt, I never got the “yeah, kill the rich!” vibe….and I never felt that “well the rich are the ones in the right” feel either.  Terrorism, domestic or abroad, is horrific no matter how you slice it.  In the end, for me, it wasn’t about making a message about rich or poor…it wasn’t about class…it was about people.  How we treat one another.  How we interact with each other.  It was about living with the decision one man made to use his power for selfish reasons…and the outcome of that decision.  It was about how he was able to rise above that selfishness…and show others what real sacrifice is.  This was Wayne’s lesson though all three films.  The idea of Batman has, and always will be, a selfish one.  To think he could take on the world alone, even as a symbol, was foolish and destine to end the way it does.  Wayne needed to make change as a man…and though this realization comes with it his redemption.

In the end, this was one of the best ways to end Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and I was more than happy with the outcome.  It was a long, emotional, powerful ride for me and one that I was happy to experience.  It takes a lot to make me feel the emotions I felt in this film, but he knew how to pluck the right strings for me….and I’m sad that it’s finally over.  I suppose, all I have to look forward to now is how Nolan will help shape DC’s other icon when Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel Comes out next year….

This is the end….for now.

Avengers Assemble!

Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, last seen tumbling into the void in the Thor film, has returned with new powers and intent on stealing the Tesseract, an ancient artifact of infinite power and energy.  S.H.I.E.L.D., the world peace keeping organization, managed to pick up this item back in the 40’s thanks to Tony Starks father, Howard, when he was in desperate search for the missing Super Soldier, Steve Rodgers, AKA Captain America.  Making a dramatic assault on a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab, Loki manages to take the Tesseract to fulfill his plan of world domination though the use of an extraterrestrial army known as the Chitauri, but not before S.H.I.E.L.D’s Director, Nick Fury, decides to put his plan into action, calling forth a team of the worlds greatest heroes, banding together for the good of humanity to form the one, the only….

The Avengers.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

Back in the summer of 2008, the movie going public was treated to an unexpected hit with Marvel Studio’s freshman film, Iron Man.  The movie was outstanding in many ways and it brought together a winning combination of  fresh story, witty dialogue, and an amazing cast.  Team all that up with some wonderful direction (thanks to Jon Favreau) and we manged to see a glimpse into something incredible.  Those of us who stayed till the end, however, caught a tease for maybe the most ambitious film project ever put together.

This was the first in a series of films that would lead to what most people would continuously say was impossible to put together.  We where going to finally see The Avengers on screen.

Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans do a great job playing off each other as Captain America and Iron Man, going for each other’s throats.

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this rise in popularity when it comes to comic book films.  Hell, most of my reviews are ABOUT comic book films…..but what I managed to catch last night was simple.  It was the climax…the cumulation of  every single Marvel Studio film that we have been treated to the last four years….and I’m happy to say that instead of watching what could have been a disaster and the worlds worst cock tease, was, in fact, the most amazing comic book action film I have EVER seen in my entire life.

Now, to clear this up, let’s look at a few elements of the movie and see WHY it managed to meet and exceed all expectations and live up to is illustrious hype.

Tom Hiddleston is, again, brilliant in his portrayal of Loki, the villain destined to bring together The Avengers.

First, let’s talk about the plot.  A good movie usually has it’s groundwork built on a solid story, and while The Avengers plot is good in terms of the world that it spent the last four years building up, it’s not the most amazing script and story I have ever seen (that lofty title still goes to The Dark Knight, of course).  It’s story isn’t so much that it’s bad, just simple….and really, that WORKS for a comic book movie such as this.  Almost the entire time, I kept thinking that if I was watching word bubbles instead of voices, I would of been watching a god damn comic book!  The basic plot, while predictable, was still amazing to watch unfold before us because of one thing.

Dialogue.

Director Joss Whedon is known very well in the fanboy community as the creator of many successful, geek centric series such as Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and when I heard that he was pegged as the director of The Avengers, I was shocked and happy at the same time.  If there is one thing Joss knows how to do, it’s write a witty script or direct people in a humorous, very human way, and this film was DRIPPING with his trademark wit….it simply touched everything and it made the movie come alive for me!  Every time we saw the heroes interacting with each other, it was breathtaking to see.  When Stark and Banner where together in a scene and just shooting the shit, it was perfect.  When Steve and Tony started playing “who has the bigger cock”, it was hilarious and sad at the same time.  When Clint and Natasha sat down to discuss the events unfolding before then, it was believable.  EVERY scene in this film was perfect, and Joss knew just how to work each others flaws in before turning this rag tag group of hot heads into a well oiled machine.  Not once was I ever forced to sit down and say, “man, this isn’t right cause it’s disrespecting the source material” .  Not once did I ever feel the movie was talking down to me.  Every single act, from first to last, was amazing….and that’s honestly hard to pull off in any film, much less one about a team of superheroes (I mean, hell, X-Men gave it a good shot, but it pales in comparison).  In the end, the story was just as human as it was heroic, and I’m happy to say that everyone got their moment in the sun and not ONE of the heroes presented is left feeling pushed aside or unimportant.  THAT’S the sign of a great movie.

Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk steals the show!

The next thing I would like to bring up is the action.  I say this is the best super hero action film for a reason….because it f*$king delivers in EVERY way (once again, plot wise, Batman’s film was better….but I would say The Dark Knight was the best super hero suspense film I have ever seen as it was light on the action which worked that THAT movie…)!  From the opening shot where Loki invades the lab, to the closing battle in New York against the Chitauri, this movie delivers without missing a heartbeat!  We see the heroes fight each other.  We see Iron Man play his smug, asshole demeanor even when he’s blasting aliens.  We see Thor’s power for the first time in REAL action and spy the nobility and honor that defines his character.  We see the conflict within Banner as he tries to control the monster within him and then take GREAT joy in watching him let the leash go as we see just how powerful the Hulk really is.  We see two agents walk the line between the world of espionage that they know and this new, fantastical world of magic and heroes that they have been thrust into.  And finally, we see the man himself, Captain America, step forward and take charge the way he was BORN to as he leads the Avengers into victory!  It was 100% enjoyable and I was not let down….not even once.

As I sit back and dwell on the film….having given it a lot of thought and reflection, I realize that it’s really hard for me to find a flaw without sounding like I’m nitpicking…..and that’s honestly a great feeling!  Sure, the previous films that lead up to this had their flaws and problems….most movies do….but through those flaws and imperfections, we see that it was all leading up to this amazing event and it shows just what a movie project gamble can lead to when put in the right hands.   I would normally say, at this point, how good all of our cast was, but I’ve gushed about everyone in this film in my previous reviews, so I will simply say that no one was slacking.  Everyone had a part to play and they performed perfectly!  I was never taken out of the film’s world for even a second and that really shocked me more than anything else.

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow join Cap as they make a final stand to protect the people in New York City.

As we come to a close and wrap up this long winded review, I simply wish to state that, while not an honestly perfect film, it certainly lived up to all the hype before it, if not better!  It shows that one can take a risk, roll the dice, and create a lasting legacy that will live on forever.  The future of Marvel Studio films is unknown to anyone at this point, and maybe one day we will see the quality drop….but for now, they took an amazing risk and I’m happy to say that it was one of the most amazing risks I’ve ever seen….I can’t wait to see what Marvel has in store for it’s heroes now, but I know I will be there, watching, waiting, and willing.

I am happy to say that I want the Avengers to Assemble once more…..especially if our next plight involves six little gems….

'Nuff Said

Coming only a couple of months behind it’s sister film, Thor, Capitan America: The First Avenger is our bridge film to finally leads us to 2012’s highly anticipated release of The Avengers, but unlike Thor, which very much FEELS like a bridge movie and not something very complete, Capitan America finds itself with a full story, full cast, and full universe in which everything works wonderfully, only providing that “bridge moment” at the very last few moments of the film.

You see, as much as I loved Thor (and I did, as goofy as it was, it managed to accomplish being a wonderfully fun film amidst all its silly predictability) I had stated in the past that it didn’t feel like full on feature.  The villain, while captivating, wasn’t doing much in terms of a plan that was going to threaten more than just Asgard.  It was only meant to introduce us to Thor, his world, and how he finds his way into the Avengers film.  Cap never falls into this little trap, providing us with a film that I have to say is possibly one of the most fun, entertaining, and “comic bookish” super hero film I have seen all year!

Steve Rodgers returning after a successful rescue mission behind enemy lines

The film follows the origins of the Capitan almost flawlessly (giving it some leeway since the original comic was made back in the 40’s, so a little update to the comic book science was a welcome addition), showing us a very scrawny Steve Rodgers (played astoundingly by Chris Evans) who, despite his frail form and laundry list of illnesses, tries multiple times in multiple cities to try and be enlisted into the army so he could help protect his country.  After showing us that, even in a no win situation, he would never back down from a fight, we come to understand the love this man has for not only his country, but for everyone out there who had ever been confronted by a bully or picked on because they where thought of as weak.  Even though his best friend, James “Bucky” Barnes (another fun performance by Sebastian Stan), tries to persuade him otherwise, he goes in to try again, this time at the Worlds Fair (where we see a young Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper, showing off just the kind of attitude we see in his son, Tony, in the later Iron Man films, portrayed here as a famous, Howard Hughes type playboy inventor).  His impassioned words to Bucky catch the attention of Bavarian scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (played with a lot of heart by a personal favorite of mine, Stanley Tucci) who proceeds to accept Steve to take part of his great experiment, Project: Rebirth.  After being put though basic training by Col. Chester Phillips (a usual gruff performance by Tommy Lee Jones) and introduced to British SSR officer Peggy Carter (a strong performance by Hayley Atwell), the trio find Steve’s conviction and willingness to protect others perfect for the project itself, though Col. Phillips still has his reservations.  After a heartfelt chat with Dr. Erskine the night before the great experiment, and some revelations of the films villain, Johann Schmidt (the sadistic and despotic Red Skull, played with menace by the brilliant Hugo Weaving), we find that the real reason he was chosen was because, at heart, Steve Rodgers is a good man, and his basic nature would help him carry though and survive the ordeal.  The next day, we see Peggy take Steve to the site of Project: Rebirth where an amazing transformation takes place, watching the once frail and sickly Steve turn into a pinnacle of human perfection….however, unknown to the others there that witness the event, a HYDRA spy was sent in to capture the drug and murder Dr. Erskine for assisting the Americans with this project.  While the spy does manage to unfortunately kill the good doctor, Steve uses his new found power to capture him and cause him to loose the last sample of the drug, meaning that now it will be forever lost.  However, it proves to be too little, to late as the agent bites down on a cyanide pill and kills himself.  With this amazing beginning, we are introduced to our main cast and the story of Americas greatest hero…but it doesn’t end there.

Chris Evans IS Capitan America

I think what really attracted me to this film was the sense of adventure I felt almost the entire way though.  Watching Cap grow from a scrawny kid from Brooklyn into a man who wears the United States flag as a costume was an amazing sight to behold!  I have to admit, when I heard that actor Chris Evans was going to play the Capitan, I was worried.  The only films I had seen him in showcased him as an arrogant, asshole archetype…but I am happy to report that I was proven wrong.  Chris showcases all the power, justice, goodwill, and leadership that makes up the Captain, not once flowing into his usual cocky persona (though sometimes, he gets a little cocky, but they really make it work in the story).  Like Superman and Thor before him, I can’t imagine anyone else picking up Steve Rodgers and making it there own.

Hayley Atwell pulls off a strong performance as SSR agent Peggy Carter

It’s a good thing, then, that it wasn’t just Chris who pulled off this fantastical World War II adventure.  Everyone involved did a great job!  Hugo  pulled off just enough cheesiness and menace as the imposing Red Skull, and his partner in crime Dr. Arnim Zola (played hilariously by veteran actor Toby Jones) was equally amusing to watch.  Tommy Lee Jones pulls off his usual tough guy attitude that works in a war time period piece, and Hayley Atwell makes me believe in what could have been a real, honest relationship between her Peggy and Chris’ Steve.  I have to say that I’m glad they didn’t focus on any sort of love story as it would of made the film slow down, but the parts where they do have Peggy and Steve showing a fondness together are blissfully short and carry some weight, which is important.  Bucky and the rest of the Invaders (or Howling Commandos depending on who you ask…..seeing as in the film they are set as the Invaders, but in reality, they are the Commandos, no question) are a blast to watch in the few scenes we catch them in, and watching them back up the Capitan was a brilliant piece of comic book cinema history for me, personally.  Everyone did a great job in a film I was terribly worried about.

Now, once again, not to say the movie itself was perfect.  The story, while captivating as comic book piece, really is too fantastical for the more realistic setting they gave it.  I can already see some people complaining that it won’t work as a WWII period piece, but then I have to remind you all that the original Capitan America comics where ALWAYS that fantastical!  I was actually happy to see them focus on HYDRA and not the Nazi’s themselves.  THAT’S what makes this film work as a fun, comic book adventure!  I can’t say enough of how many times I was at the edge of my seat, feeling something familiar.  It’s not going to win any awards, it’s not a dramatic entry into fine cinema, but what it IS works well for the style they use.  This was a pulp adventure all the way, and I couldn’t be happier to see it come to life they way it did.  I’m not a huge fan of director Joe Johnston, but goddamn it, he pulled it off.

Would I recommend this film to everyone?  Absolutely.  It’s pulpy fun, it’s an action adventure, it showcases patriotic heroes unapologetically, and shows us a classic case of good vs. evil.  I say go and see this film as soon as you can, get some popcorn, sit down, and prepare to have the time of your life!

(and, as a side note, just between me and you, Capitan America is now the reason I want to see The Avengers next year.)

"Avengers Assemble!"

This is NOT Hal Jordan

Posted: June 19, 2011 in Comics, Movies

Maybe the best of the worst superhero films...

OK, so, you guys know, by now, my stance on comic book films.  I won’t say that they are ALL great because I’m bias.  I won’t take my love of the material and say a film is great just because I’m a huge comic fanboy.  I know the difference between a good film and total crap……well, most of the time (I am, apparently, one of the few who enjoyed Ang Lee’s Hulk and Bryan Singers Superman Returns).

In that respect, I’m going to give you my honest opinion of the new Green Lantern film, directed by Martin Campbell, that came out this past weekend.

Did I like it?

Yes I did.

Was it a perfect?

HELL no it wasn’t.  VERY far from perfect.

Casting was perfect when they chose Mark Strong to play Sinestro

You see, this is where the problem begins.  It’s not often that I will say that a film is made for a very small audience.  A good movie can be viewed by everyone, it’s easily accessible.  Joe Blow movie fan can walk in, pay their ticket, and sit down to something that showcases a great story and can be pure entertainment.

Green Lantern is not that kind of a film.  In all respect, it’s not a good movie at all.

So then why the hell did I like it?

Well, you see, this is where being a huge comic nerd comes in handy.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Green Lantern, specifically Hal Jordan as he was the Green Lantern I grew up with (and, let’s face it, had some of the best storyline and writers bringing him to life), and it helps that, with some changes here and there, the film keeps the mythology honest, showing us Oa in all it’s glory, the various alien races that make up the 3600 members of the Corps, and our prime players Sinestro, Kilowog, and Tomar-Re, in my opinion are all represented perfectly (Mark Strong, in particular, does an amazing job as our future villain as he’s always had a commanding presence in most any film he’s in).  Peter Sarsgaard should also be mentioned, as his turn as classic Green Lantern rouge Hector Hammond comes off just as it should: eccentric and creepy!  Peter nails that brilliant sleaze in a portrayal that’s equal parts corny and equal parts threatening.  The only real issue I have with the actors over all is, unfortunately, a major one and one of the big problems I have with the film.

It almost exclusively focuses on only Hal Jordan.  This means that all our brilliant actors and voice talents get very little screen time.  It’s actually insulting how little we see them, especially Sinestro, and let me tell you, as much as I like Hal Jordan, he should of never been the exclusive focus.

While they get very little screen time, Kilowog and Tomar-Re still stand out

This is where I can start getting into the major problems.  You see, as funny as Ryan Reynolds is, he’s NOT Hal Jordan.  Oh, sure, he shows some of Hal’s traits down the line….the ability to showcase his powerful will, the hero willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and the cocky sure attitude he’s always had….but mostly he’s an ass.  And I don’t mean the kind of ass Hal is…I just mean Ryan Reynolds ass.  It’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, and it’s painfully out of place with the tone of the film.  Maybe if you told me he was playing Kyle Rayner or Guy Gardner I would of bought it, but no….it just doesn’t work for me.  This is also where the problems comes with the second act.  We spend SO much time with Hal on earth trying to learn to be a hero that it becomes a showcase of terrible cliche’s  and bad acting.  Honestly, I started getting really bored and wished to see how Sinestro and the rest of the corps where handling the films villain.  While we get to see some cool effects when Hal starts using the ring as it’s meant to be used, it’s too little, too late.  The third act is a blessing as we start to see more of the corps and Hal showing us just how sick-cool he can be when dealing with the impossible, I just feel that it a real shame that a whole chunk of the film is a let down where it should of been amazing.

Also, as a side note, I found it terrible that the last few scenes of the film are RECYCLED from the middle of the film, just in reverse.  How f&%king lazy is that!?  I mean, honestly, that’s unforgivable.  It’s like they aren’t even trying to hide it.  I expect that from a terrible made for TV movie, but not something with a budget as large as this film.

Ugh….sorry, it’s just bugs the shit out of me.

This is what I’m sure the other reviewers out there saw, and really the big let down of Green Lantern.  It just felt as if the writers and director didn’t know what he was trying to show us.  Granted, they got the mythology down pat, sure, but I’m not sure if he was trying to show us a sci-fi film, a comedy, an action film, or a drama.  There are many points in the film where it just JUMPS from one style to the next, and the transition isn’t done well at all.  Like the other summer blockbuster, On Stranger Tides, the film suffers from good performances vs. a weak director.  Maybe if there had been more time, we could of set on a film that was a little less confused with itself and a little more honest.

Hammond is a creep, and it shows in the film

Green Lantern is a goofy hero.  Just GO with it.  Don’t fight it.  Go full out and make the film as alien as the cast!  Show outrageous heroism, show amazing feats of willpower and courage, show dastardly villains and demonic monsters bent on the destruction of the universe!  Pull out ALL the stops and just MAKE a Green Lantern film.  Don’t play it safe with pretty boy actors and uncomfortable comedy.  Seriously, there was no need for it.

Still, with all that said, I still liked the movie.  Seeing the corps in action was amazing and watching that first and last act was rewarding…I just wish it had been THAT rewarding the entire way though.  As for a recommendation, well, I would say that if you love Green Lantern, then yes, go, see the movie in the theater.  It’s amazing.  For the rest of you?  Skip it.  Catch it on basic cable with the rest of the world.  Seeing as this is going to be a trilogy (and with the end credit scene basically shouting that there will be a sequel), then hopefully next time around we can get our all out Lantern film and not some half-assed attempt.

Missiles and Mutants

Posted: June 7, 2011 in Comics, Movies

A true origin tale

Holy shit, this movie was great!

OK, before I get into that little phrase up there and tell you all what I thought of this film, let me explain something…

When this film was announced, I was already on the band wagon of haters that thought doing this prequel was a horrific idea.  WHY in the WORLD would you take a franchise who’s last couple of films where terrible, horrendous bombs and run my precious X-Men into the ground further then they already where.  I saw the casting choice (Kevin Bacon?  Really?!), and the setting and my faith was stolen from me.  How in the world was this movie going to be any good?

I mean….Kevin Bacon?

But, as I stated before, holy shit!  I was completely wrong about this movie!

I was in no way interested in this film until I saw the first trailer.  It’s pacing was good and the acting looked solid, not to mention it did, from what I saw, a good job of capturing the time line the film was set in.  After having watched it multiple times, I decided I was going to give this film a chance.

A small chance, but a chance none the less.

As the weeks came closer to release, more and more trailers and featurette started to leak online.  I would watch each one with growing interest and, I have to say, it was starting to get harder and harder to stay away from wanting to see this film day one.  Still, X-Men 3 and Origins left me with such a bad taste in my mouth that I was still worried.

Then, two days before the move premiered, I happened to check it’s fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes…and it was 98% after fifty critics reviewed the film!

I was blown away!  How could this happen?  People where saying that it was THE movie to beat this summer…that it was the BEST movie this year!

What?  X-Men?!?  How about you pass me what you’re smoking cause that just can’t be right…

Right?

Well, to test my theory, I left to see it on the Friday it premiered with a friend of mine.  The theater was pretty empty, but to be fair it was early afternoon, so we had time before the real Friday night movie groups came in.  This gave me enough leeway to sit down and dissect what I was watching.  I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

The lights dimmed, the sound system kicked in, and I was off.

………..And I was treated to two hours of amazing storytelling, effects, acting, and pacing.

Once again we have an amazing cast, but this time we have the story to back it up!

I really mean it.  This movie is f*&king amazing.

Now, as you guys know, I’m a huge comic nerd, and I will say that, going in with comic nerd eyes, I saw ALL kinds of problems with it’s portrayal of my favorite mutants.  However, the best part is that I could of given two shits because the movie really stands all on it’s own!

X-Men:First Class honestly needs no help from it’s comic book origins, in my opinion, and the reason for that is because the writing is so damn SHARP!  The guys who wrote the script where just on the BALL!  Each moment was cut seamlessly, each take was JUST long enough without overstaying each mutants welcome.  We see JUST enough of their powers to say “aw cool!” before moving to the next story arc.  This film is truly an origin tale in every sense of the word.

Erik Lensherr looking eerily familiar...

Personally, I think what really makes this film work, aside from the amazing cast (And yes, here we go again with a summer blockbuster that once more has AMAZING actors doing an incredible job, but this time the script is there to back up the talent, unlike SOME films I have seen thus far…) is the setting….

1962, America and Russia are both threatening nuclear war and we see the beginning of what will become the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Amidst the rising tide of fear and distrust that resides in the states, we see our young group of heroes making there way towards destiny.  Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), the man who would later be known as Magneto, is seen at the very beginning, watching as his parents are locked away in a concentration camp, the stress of this event unlocking his natural mutant ability to control metal.  Our films main antagonist, back then going under the name Dr. Schmidt and who we will later know as Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), sees this amazing event and proceeds to try and force the boy to use his powers again.  Seeing that, at this time, he couldn’t manifest it unless he was under great stress, Dr. Schmidt forces his mother to come into the room, gives him to the count of three to move a metal coin, and then shockingly fires and kills her before his very eyes, causing his powers to go crazy and destroying everything in the room.  Now that the doctor knows how to force his powers to work, he takes the young Eric and tortures him until the boy can control it at will.  A couple of decades later and we see Eric, now a grown man, hunting down every single living person involved with his incarceration at the camp, either killing them outright or letting them live so long as he gets information on his true target, Sebastian Shaw.

Astoundingly, Kevin Bacon is stellar as the films main villain, Sebastian Shaw

It’s this beginning  arc that leads us to the rest of the film, showing a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) growing up together, learning about there own mutations and finding out how wide spread it is, all the while finding out that Sebastian and the Hellfire Club had been spearheading the conflict between the United States and Russia in an attempt to start World War Three and force future generations, though the nuclear fallout, into being born mutants.  We can see that, through this man, Eric’s future idealism is born, but getting to that point is what makes this film fascinating.

This film, in it’s two hour and eleven minute  run, packs in one great idea and story arc after the next, showing us the origins of almost everything!  We see the creation of an early Cerebro, the formation of Charles School for Gifted Youngsters, the creation and first designs of the X-Men’s future jet, the Blackbird, and even the origin of Magneto’s telepath blocking helmet.  Granted, there are some continuity errors when matching this up with the original trilogy, but I find that most of that comes from the failed third film and the Wolverine movie (I.E. Charles and Eric, a bit older, walking together to enlist Jean Grey to the school and Moria MacTaggert (played in this film by Rose Byrne) being turned from a Scottish scientist to an American CIA agent, not to mention a short, yet awesome cameo by Hugh Jackman as Logan in a time when he shouldn’t be active or in the states for that matter…), which tells me that the consensus is that these two films are out of continuity, as they should be (seriously, both of those films where TERRIBLE!).

This film only proves to me what sharp writing and a great cast can do for a movie.  Director Matthew Vaughn took what was already a dead series and truly brought it back from the grave!  I’m not sure if I’m down for making this into a new trilogy, as they keep saying, but if they left this one as part one, then X-Men and X2, I would be happy.  All three of those films where great and this movie only makes them feel more epic.  In my humble opinion, this movie stands out as a testament of what a great story and director can to together to make something with substance.  It’s so, so, SO easy to screw up a super hero film, but when the material is treated with respect and dignity, you could literally take something that everyone considers shitty and make it shine brighter than anything set before it.

It was inevitable, really...

I still have two more super hero films to catch this summer (Green Lantern and Captain America), but I have a feeling I have seen the best of the bunch….possibly the best movie of the summer!  If you have the ability, funds, and time, go see this film while it is still in theaters!  It needs as much help as it can get (from what I understand, even though it was the number one movie in the box office on it’s opening weekend, it was still being panned as a failure in terms of making it’s money back.  They wanted “more Wolverine” apparently to sell more tickets…and that’s simply ignorant…)!  Even if you can’t catch it now, do yourself a favor and watch it in any capacity you can: DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Redbox, hell…Blockbuster!  Just give it an honest chance.  I promise you that it will be worth your time!

Pirates Review: On Boring Tides

Posted: May 20, 2011 in Movies

Great cast. Boring movie.

I’m going to try and be nice here.  I really am.  I’m not one to always push the negatives forward and just dump on something I don’t like, so I’m going to do my best to be as good as I can be in this review for Rob Marshall’s take on the popular Disney franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

But it’s gonna be hard…

So, it’s been about four years since we saw the conclusion to the Pirates storyline involving Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) adventure trying to capture the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and the fate of the Caribbean Islands.   We all thought (at least, I did at the time) that this was all over.  The series had a successful trilogy and all the little tweens out there could move on past there rather disturbing obsession with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

Well, shit, because later I find out that they where, in fact, making a fourth film in the series that would almost certainly start a new trilogy and we would never get away from this damn Jack Sparrow character!

Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz play off each other so well!

Now…Before things get too heavy, let me admit something to you all.  I actually LIKED the original set of movies.  I found them to be fun and full of high adventure, something I want in a fantastical pirate themed film.  I mean, sure, the storyline was terribly convoluted (I’m not saying that it was the HARDEST set of films to follow, but it just seemed that everyone was  betraying everyone and after the fiftieth time, it got old, fast.), and maybe some of our actors where pushing the limits of bad acting (Looking at you Keira…), but I sat down at all three and really enjoyed them.  They where all really fun, popcorn films that you can pop in once in a while and have a chuckle at Depp playing off his lanky, almost always confused drunken rouge that people seemed to have fallen in love with.

With that said, I’ll say that when I heard there was going to be a fourth film, I was a little worried.  I mean, there was no need for it at all!  No reason they had to push another Jack Sparrow adventure on us when the first three where plenty.

Still, I have a soft spot for pirate films in general, and I’m ALWAYS a sucker for a good sword fight.  When the movie premiered last night, I took a friend and we caught the midnight showing.  I honesty wasn’t expecting much, but the draw of pirate ships and sword fights was too strong.  I payed for my ticket and went on my merry way.

By the time the movie was over, I was trying not to fall asleep.

Now I’m not sure it’s because I’ve just grown out of this series and find none of it’s recycled jokes (I can’t STAND the “it’s CAPTAIN Jack…” line anymore!  I hated it when they overused it in the FIRST &#&$ film!) and overplayed melodies tired and played out.  Maybe it was the script, it’s lack of heart and anything remotely involving the epicness that was found in the last three films (seriously, the scope on this movie was small and confined, no where NEAR the sea battles and mast balancing sword fights of the last few movies).  Maybe it was past midnight and I was just really tired.

I don’t know.

But what I DO know is that I have a first impression.  I will say that the film itself wasn’t TERRIBLE.  It was just really, really boring.

Painfully so.

Ian McShane plays the villainous Blackbeard perfectly!

From the moment we first see Depp as Jack and his “daring” escape from London, I was already yawing and wishing we could move on to the second act, already a bad sign.  It only proceeded to move on from there in a semi-slow pace that never really picked up (even though the scene where they try to catch a mermaid was fun and a little shocking, it was still missing that edge that could of made it really great).   I’ll admit it had a few fun scenes and I did laugh honestly a few times, so I’ll give the movie some credit for that, but I can tell you WHY that was.  It sure as HELL wasn’t because of that script.  We have, as usual, a talented bunch of actors playing off each other, and it felt like a lot of the interactions between the main cast was ad libbed, and that came off really interesting.  Love him or hate him, Depp can act, and he has, by now, perfected his Jack Sparrow role to a T.  Seeing him tease, court, argue, and fight with the beautiful Penélope Cruz (playing a pirate captains daughter, Angelica) was fun and cute and interesting, but that’s because I bought the chemistry here, something that’s crucial when trying to sell a romance in film.  Ian McShane was simply brilliant as the films antagonist, Edward Teach, otherwise know throughout history as Blackbeard the Pirate.  He played the role with a calm venom, seeing in him, with each scene he was in, the real villain ready to burst from his almost unwavering patience.  The few times we DO see him loose his cool prove to be some of the better scenes in the entire film.  We also have, returning to us, Captain Hector Barbossa, played wonderfully by the talented Geoffrey Rush.  The way Depp and Rush play off each other has always been a major part of the entertainment of the three films, and to see them at it again was, admittedly, nice. Our core cast played off what little could be found in this script as best they could, and while I respect them all for putting in real effort, it couldn’t save this film.

Once again, I’m not saying that it was a bad film….just boring.  I sat there most of the time trying to feign interest in what I was seeing, hoping that maybe, at the end, we would see an epic sword battle set before the Fountain of Youth, our Macguffin, if you will, set as a goal for all our cast and crew.  But unfortunately, no such luck.

When Depp and Rush are both on screen, the movie shines.

I’m not going to give away the plot (what little there is) and I’m not going to sit here and blast it to little bits.  What I AM going to do is say my final piece and leave it at that.  The new Pirates film has a few entertaining bits to go around, and it’s brilliant cast really help drive the humor and fun that IS to be had, but the film can’t stand on this alone.  The story is crap, the direction is crap, and even the score is crap (recycling your score isn’t unusual for franchise, but come on….I can’t tell you how many times the music seemed to chime in at the wrong time, wrong pitch, and wrong speed for what we saw on screen).  Over all, I would say that if you miss this film in theaters, I wouldn’t cry about it.  I can’t even say that it’s worth buying when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray.  If it happens to hit your list on Netflix, sure, give it a watch.  I can’t really justify paying the $10 for a ticket to see it now when your monthly subscription can pay for it for you.

I’m sorry guys, but maybe next time, don’t try so HARD to put me to sleep when your flashing off Miss Cruz’s breasts at me, yeah?  Thanks, I appreciate it.

When Mythologies Clash

Posted: May 6, 2011 in Comics, Movies

Thor: The God of Thunder

Ok, so, to those that know me, you would expect me to be a little bias about my review when it comes to Kenneth Branagh’s Thor film, simply because of my deep love of comics and most media pertaining to it.  I would have to agree that, in part, that’s true.  I will say that I generally give a comic book film some leeway since I can suspend disbelief for the material without having to try TOO hard.

However…

That’s not to say that I love ALL comic book films.  Oooohhhh no no no, that’s just not the case.  Need I remind you all of such clunkers like Howard the Duck, Swamp Thing 2, X-Men 3, the 80’s Punisher film, hell, Spider-Man 3?!

UGH!

I know what I’m looking for in a good comic book film.  Just MAKING the damn movie won’t impress me.  I need to see some connection to the source material.  I need to feel some real emotion with the tortured hero and troubled villain.  I need depth and a great story to carry me though the experience  so that way I’m not just watching a bunch of guys on screen wearing spandex and freakin’  jerking off, all right?  With that said, I welcome you, my friends, to my review of Marvel Studio’s Thor.

The film itself focuses on our title hero, showing his growth from arrogant, selfish, bull headed warrior, to a wise, self sacrificing god who shows his worth as not only a being of divinity, but as a man as well.  This simple premise is what carries us though the film’s two hour adventure, but HOW the adventure unfolds before us is what really sets the tone.  This is what I would say really impressed me about the film and it’s pacing. Let me be up front with you (and let me also say, there will be a few spoilers ahead, so, WATCH OUT), you won’t see a whole LOT of the god of thunder in the film.  We see him in all his GLORIOUS  action only in the first and last acts, leaving the movie in the hands of it’s rather capable cast to tell a story of anger, jealousy, and redemption. The film does this VERY will in the fact that I found myself not really MISSING the actual Thor scenes with him proving to us mortals what a badass he is (and he IS, let me tell ya), but taking joy in watching him change little by little though his interactions with us “lowly” humans.  His arrogance leads way to humiliation and humility, but ultimately leaves him to open his heart to us and show us the kind of heart that a hero must have to truly stand before the face of impossible odds.   To this end, I have to say that Chris Hemsworth’s turn as the thunder god was spot on.  Like Christopher Reeves stint as Superman, it’s going to be hard to imagine anyone else taking the reigns from Chris.  He was loud, confident, easily excitable, showed great loyalty to his friends and family, and gave off a sense of power that only Chris could have embodied, and I praise him for that.  He’s not without his flaws (a few times he DOES come off as rather stiff and boring), but his over all stint as Thor comes off almost blemish free. But you see, he’s not the only one pulling there weight in this film.

Loki: The god of Mischief

A hero is only as good as his villain, and let me tell you guys, picking up the unknown Tom Hiddleston to play Loki, the god of mischief was PERFECT!  He begins, as all good villains do, as a sympathetic character, vastly intelligent, but always in the shadow of his older brother Thor.  When you see Tom on screen, you can see the gears grinding.  You can see he’s already several steps ahead of everyone else in the room.  You can see that he DOES have love for his family, but his own ambition clouds his better judgment.  You get all of this from ONE look…..and that means a lot.  I find him fascinating in that as Loki, we have ourselves a MAJOR Marvel villain, one who will shape the upcoming Avengers event to his liking, but someone who only wished to impress his father, the mighty Odin.  To see him cause so much grief and chaos because of one man’s acceptance only cements him, to me, as a powerful player in the films to come.

Odin Allfather: King of the Gods

But we cannot forget the supporting cast either.  Everyone turns in a great performance  in the smalls roles they have.  The warriors three, Fandral (Joshua Dallas), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) all perform to there roles perfectly!  We see the swashbuckling antics of Fandral, the honorable, warrior spirit of Hogun, and the boisterous, happy-go-lucky style of Volstagg the Vast!  Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) proves to be ever the courageous warrior and possible interest for Thor (though it’s never said or mentioned, one can see the tension, and I love that they left it at that).  The amazing turn of Heimdall (Idris Elba) as the gatekeeper of Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge that links all of the Nine realms, proving to be all knowing and all wise as he steels every scene he is in.  We cannot forget the Allfather himself, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), either.  Anthony perfects the role as now, like with Thor himself, I cannot see ANYONE else pretending to play the role.  He comes on screen and you KNOW he is Odin.  One would think that the 73 year old actor wouldn’t command the screen as well as he does for a comic book film, but there he was, bigger than life, telling us who the Asguardians are and how they lived to protect the Nine Realms, like the knights of old Camelot.

This....just didn't feel right at all....

We also cannot forget our players on earth, though this is where the film tends to slow down.  While it’s nice to see Clark Gregg playing Agent Coulson and Samuel L Jackson playing Nick Fury again, the performances from our three scientists, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) just come off as kinda…..I dunno….lame.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, Stellan is great in the small role he has, but he’s also a talented actor and can usually pull off anything he desires, and Kat playing the kinda “valley girl” add on for comedic relief was almost painfully expected, but I think I was most disappointed in Natalie’s Jane Foster.  Jane is an important character in the comics, playing Thor’s human love interest, but it just comes off as VERY shallow in the film.  She meets him and it’s, what I like to call “instalust!”  It’s almost insulting.  I know Natalie can act.  I know she can do well with most roles she’s given (save Star Wars, but that’s for ANOTHER rant), but GOD!  She was so one-dimensional that I was begging the film gods to just move to the next scene!  Still, it’s not QUITE as bad as some other films out there…just…kinda….out of place here.  A real shame, but, really, one of the very few shames this movie gives me.

I’m not going on record as saying this was a PERFECT comic film.  It’s hard to really achieve that (“cough” The Dark Knight “cough”), but what I love about the film is how much they respect the source material.  You see, one thing about me is that I view comic book heroes as the modern mythology.  I see there powers and heroics, there flaws and there drama as all things we have read before in the pages of Egyptian, Greek, and Norse mythology.  For me, to see this film respect both aspects of it’s origins, from the fantastical magic of the Marvel Universe to the ancient tomes of the Norse legends themselves, only adds to the joy I felt when watching this movie. In the end, I’ll say that I DID enjoy the film quite a bit.  I loved it’s pacing (save for Jane being on screen), loved it’s choice cast, and it’s powerful, yet small storyline.  You see, the film FEELS small in a grand way.  It very much feels like we have SO much more to see when  it comes to Thor and the upcoming Avengers film.  I hope that once the Avengers has come and gone, we will see a sequel to Thor as I would LOVE to see more action played out in the Realm Eternal.  If you have no interest in the Norse gods of old, or in the Marvel version of Thor, then I warn you, you won’t like this film.  I’m not saying it’s for purists either.  Anyone can come in and love this movie, but if you have a predisposition to mythology to begin with, you won’t find much enjoyment here.  All the same, give it a shot, guys, I doubt you will find it a waste of your time.